05/06/2013, 00.00
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Bangladesh, clashes between police and Islamic fundamentalists: 22 dead and hundreds injured

by Nozrul Islam
Thousands of Hefajat-e-Islam supporters blocked and isolated the capital, attacking police with machetes, bricks and stones. The police responded with tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades and rubber bullets.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - At least 22 people were killed in Bangladesh in clashes between police and hundreds of thousands of Islamists. Since late yesterday afternoon until this morning, supporters of the fundamentalist group Hefajat-e-Islam marched through the streets of Dhaka, the capital, demanding the introduction of a law against blasphemy. On arriving in the city center they engaged in a real urban warfare with the police: the Islamic extremists attacked with machetes, bricks and stones at police who responded by firing tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.

So far, 11 bodies have been brought to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. They include many Islamic militants and a policeman, wounded in the head with a machete. The other 11 victims were transferred to three clinics close to the epicenter of the clashes.

It all started yesterday afternoon, as tens of thousands of Islamists blocked the main streets of Dhaka, isolating the city from the rest of the country. Then they marched to the center of the capital, demanding the introduction of a law on blasphemy and burning cars and shops were on their way.

Hefajat-e-Islam ("Protector of Islam") is one of Islamic fundamentalist groups that has sprung up like mushrooms in recent months and born within the numerous madrassas (Koranic schools) dispersed throughout Bangladesh. Supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Party) and its struggle against the verdicts of the war tribunals, since February these Islamists are the protagonists of hartal (strikes) and violence, which have fostered a climate of tension among the population an nation that shows no sign of abating amid general government indifference.


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